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Tavis Smiley

News/Business. Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite. (2013) Musicians Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite. New. (CC) (Stereo)




San Francisco, CA, USA

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Channel 19 (153 MHz)






Ben 6, Us 6, Charlie 5, Ben Harper 4, Charlie Musselwhite 3, Pbs 3, Minnesota 2, U.s. 2, Harmonica 2, Charlie Patton 2, Tavis Smiley 2, Los Angeles 1, Heaven 1, Chicago 1, Grammatic 1, John Lee 1, Obama 1, Tavis 1, Charlie Or Stevie 1, Stevie 1,
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  PBS    Tavis Smiley    News/Business. Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite.  (2013)  
   Musicians Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite. New. (CC) (Stereo)  

    February 22, 2013
    12:00 - 12:30am PST  

tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with musicians ben harper and charlie musselwhite. they have just collaborated on their first cd together. it is called "get up!," served up with the legendary stax record label. we are glad you are able to join us for our conversation with ben harper and charlie musselwhite, coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: ben harper has teamed up with master charlie musselwhite, for a new cd, titled "get up!," for the legendary stax label. it has been called cinematic in the storytelling, and it has his own brand of soaring harmonica, and to start, year is a
collaboration of what this sounds like. ♪ believe a word you say i do not believe i don't believe a word you say i don't believe ♪ >> bringing something out that you would not otherwise have. tavis: ben, we are in our tent season on pbs. >> congratulations. tavis: and you have been on this program many times, and more than any other guest i have had on, you have been on because of collaborations that you went after, that you wanted to do, and they are the legends, the icons, the old-school guys who
you have an appreciation for. why get into this? what is it about these old school caps that you are so drawn to? >> the heart and soul and the depth of musical inspiration that they have brought into my life, all of my life, and to have an opportunity like this. they do not come along often, and they probably will not be a lot more -- i mean, this man knows a man that played with charlie patton. charlie patton taught robert johnson. and that is him, so i know someone who knew someone. i did not mean to geek out on you like that, but for me, the blues is where i come from. that is the foundation of every
note i have hit or will hit, and this man represents the deepest blues that has ever existed. tavis: the collaboration might look good on paper, but what makes you know it will work good in the studio? i mean, for real, for real. >> i mean personalities and something that moves around us all that is bigger than us, that brings us to a place in our lives where we can live in to who we see ourselves being, and that is -- charlie and i meet right there. tavis: so the flip side for you, charlie, how does it feel for you to have these younger cats, people like ben harper, wanting to get in the studio with you. >> i do not know what it is all about, but i will take it.
i appreciate it. it has been a long road, and i am still doing it, and it is great to be working with a guy like ben. we just resonate, not only musically but personally. it is great to be on the word -- on the road with a guy like ben. i do not feel old. i feel better now than i felt 30 years ago. tavis: and you do not sound old. that helps. why, to your point, charlie, why are you still doing this? you make your mark. why go to these hotels and be on the buses and at the airports? why still do it? >> if i won the lottery, i would not back out of my driveway again. i mean, i love the music. being on the road is not a piece of cake, but it is real
rewarding. all of the people cannot come to my house, so i have to go out on the road and play for them. smiling faces, seeing people that come up after the show and say, "me and my wife met way back." and they have grandkids, exposing them to the music. it is great to see it being handed down. it is about the music for me. i am just glad i in the game. tavis: ben, is there some sort of responsibility you feel? i was looking at your schedule. this is not the only program you are doing, and i was looking at some of the other programs that you appear on, looking at the age demographic of your core audience, and i was, like, ben is exposing this type of music
ingenious to even a younger audience than i might have your on pbs. is there some sort of responsibility you feel to do that? >> no. i just find myself in these fortunate positions to be able to play with my musical heroes. taj walked in. one of the great men of music of all time, and that was my first professional gig. taj walked in and said, "do you go on the road?" i did not know even what he meant. do i go on the road when i drive? tavis: better than on the sidewalk. >> and two weeks later, i was on tour with him. this is the biggest gig of my life. for me, it is not about -- of course, i take pride presenting this type of music to the people who listen to what i do, but for me, this is the opportunity of a
lifetime for me to play with this man. there will be no higher, crowning achievement for the rest of my life. this is it. i do not know what i am going to do after this record? i do not know. i said i was going to do a blind boys, too. tavis: i am glad he remembered that. i have a clip of you saying that. i know you to be an authentic person about these kinds of matters, so i know you mean what you say and say what you mean, and you believe in your heart. what do you make of it that you keep finding new ways, innovative ways, to do things that have not been done and to use your metaphor, your phrase, to put more jewels in that crown? >> there has been no other
answer book. with charlie. although, we have been plotting this for 20 years. that is the crazy thing. it has been in the works for a minute. i just found myself -- tavis, the clearest answer is that i have worked hard enough in music and even as a kid, growing up in a music store. my family has a music store. i have worked hard enough and committed my life deep enough to have been able to earn a seat at the table, you know, to earn a place in music where opportunities as a whereas this have exposed themselves to me, and i have been ready to go when the call came. >> charlie -- tavis: charlie, ben has worked hard enough to
get a seat at the table. do you think that people still have to work to get a seat at the table? having to earn their spot at the table, my sense is that that is not so much the case anymore. >> you get a hit, and all of a sudden, someone polls you up a chair. just because you have a hit does not mean you are good. that just means you have a hit. you could have had 12 people writing that hit. not that that makes it any less of a hit. tavis: in this business -- >> it seems like a whole different business than when i started. i do not know where these people come from. overnight. tavis: "american idol." >> back in the day, you just kept hitting your head against the wall until he found a door or got a break, and kept on
going. if you are talking about blues specifically, that is another thing. music, in general. tavis: tell me your assessment of our appreciation of the blues. are we going through a renaissance period where, as americans, we are discovering it again? a friend of mine was at the kennedy center honors, and i was literally passing through chicago, connecting to minnesota or somewhere to give a speech, and i have a few hours' break in the story, true story, and as you know, but the plays himself every weekend for the month of january, -- buddy place. i went to the club, hung out for a few hours to watch him play, got on the plane, and went on to
minnesota. i was so heartened, ben, to see the standing room crowd waiting to get in which has to deal with not just his talent but with the exposure he has gotten. the kennedy center honors. you tell me what you see. >> gosh. it is a different from when i started out. when i started out, if you wanted to read about blues, there was nothing to read. you may have found a big chapter in a book about jazz. today, there are tons of books about blues and the history of blues. blues magazines. you have got blues festivals. blues societies. blues cruises. tavis: blues and cruise. >> the societies and festivals are all over the world. to me, things are looking up.
it has been getting better and better like that all along. tavis: i want to ask you a question, and i interested to get both of your respective stakes, the recording of this. so, tell me, charlie, you first, the songs on the record, the recording of the record. tell me about this process from your perspective. >> as was said, we were trying to do this for a long time. since we are both real busy, the first was to find the time. back when he did a tune called "burn in hell," we already knew each other, we were friends, and we knew that we resonated on that level, but then being in the studio and playing together, we thought this was heaven? this was clicking. even john lee said, "you guys need to do more together.
it was like we have been doing this for a long time. three takes. no overdubs, except for the ladies singing. the music just poured out of us. tavis: tell us about the new project of "get up!." >> some of it is material i have been working on for a long period of time. some of it was finished in the studio just by passing it around, and then some of it was written. tavis: i have heard this before, but take me inside the studio and tell me how you write a song collaboratively. >> we were hanging around in the studio because the studio was
paid for, and we were all there. making the most out of it. before we started mixing. we were just there, kicking around, and the microphones were hot, and i was behind the board, talking about how the record was most likely done, and we would start mixing it, and then all of a sudden, i hear charlie and our guitarist playing, and the last track is called "all that matters now." and i thought, all on a minute. i think there is a track on this record that we are calling done. what i am hearing now is better than one of these tracks, because i wanted it to be a 10- song record. i do not think people are going to get to the back of a record that is any longer than that in this day and age. tavis: so what does that mean? i will take you back to your
story in a minute, but what does that say about our capacity for engaging in music project that we cannot listen past 10 songs? let's say we cannot listen past 10 songs. >> i am glad that the last hundred years have raised music to this. time ships all of our occupations in that way. people are done. imagine if you had a family business that was making pay phones. business shifts for everyone, and who knows? in 100 years, we could be back in the town square, juggling and playing blues. tavis: pay phones are not essential to our lives. music is. it is the soundtrack of our lives.
and the fact that our capacity is stretched to its limits, where you do not even want to do a record has 10 tracks is troubling to me. >> ok, and i will counter by saying that tend tracks is a lot of music. tavis: you win. i just have to ask you questions about it. i could not do two tracks. i have got a whole lot of nerved pressing you about 10 tracks. "what does your record have, tavis?" anyway, i digress. you win, you win. i interrupted you when your telling me the story of this last track. >> i've heard them marking on this track that was as big or better than anything we had. they were just jamming, and i said, it roll tape, and they said, "what do you mean, "will take?" -- "roll tape"?"
there was one microphone in the room. i went out and sang it down. i had the lyrics ready. they just cannot down there right music. as a songwriter, i may sit on lyrics for two years before the music gets. i have patience. they have this track that is hot, but no words. i know it is because they are going to meet. there is only one proper way a song should go. you have to be patient enough to have them come together. sometimes it is lightning in a bottle. tavis: if that happens, and i assume it has, charlie, where this has happened in your career before, where you are jamming with whomever, and the jamming
session turns into something more. >> yes, the spirit of the music takes over. is almost like you are not even playing, like the spirit is playing you. that feeling shows up, and you just go with it. it is almost like i am a bystander, watching this happening. it is not a mental process. it is just spontaneous. it is almost like a mystical. >> -- tavis: how did the harmonica become your instrument? >> when i was a kid, they were just around. it was like all kids had a harmonica. as a teenager, i was interested in blues. i thought maybe i could play my own blues. it sounds so good to listen to it, it might feel even better to play it, so i would go out into the woods and teach myself.
it just took over. the blues overtook me. yes, the harmonic it is the only instance where you cannot see what you are doing or anybody else. you are really on your own. every other instance, you can really see the hands and have a clue of how to play it. you are really on your own with the harmonica. it is the only one where you can breathe and out -- in and out. tavis: speaking of instruments, are their instruments -- this might be a silly question, but are their instruments that you just have a complete aberration for, that as often as you can, you want to include them on your projects? >> again, following the music, i let the song be in charge of the way it wants to sound. tavis: i only ask that because i find that whenever i hear a
harmonica, which is not terribly, terribly often, given what they give us, whenever i hear it, it stops me dead in my tracks, i think in part of what charlie said, in terms of what they are going for to get that sound out, but every time i hear it, whether it is charlie or stevie, it stops me, the sound of the instrument. >> it is so special when it is played at this level. when it comes to the blues, it has to be. >> to me, it is like when i am taking a solo, it is like i am singing the words, because you can make it sound happy or sad. it is all there. >> charlie, what is great on this show, you have had two of the greatest. stevie wonder, taj mahal.
on the show. when has std been on last? tavis: maybe one year or so ago. as a matter of fact, people stop me at airports and in hotels and on the street, and they thanked me for talking to so many music artists. i was just having this conversation today. i was saying to her that the reason why i love music artists is you get the most authentic conversations. i love politicians, but they are always trying to stay on message. i love military generals, but they are not going to give you nothing. i can talk about the genres of the people i talk to all of the time. with music, that is the best shot you have at having an authentic conversation. but typically comes out in one way, shape, or form. over the years, i have loved
talking to artists. charlie, you have the briefcase, and i am afraid to ask you what is inside it. i think it is not something lethal. >> it is not my briefcase. >> is there a harmonica in there by any chance? is there something you can play in their? >> oh, yes. this company is one of the oldest in the world, older than a corner. i gave one of these to president obama. he said stevie wonder had given him a grammatic. i said i give lessons, and he said, "that is nice, but i am a little busy right now." tavis: let me get out of the
way, and we will give you the last minute, and you can play us out. this last project is called "get up!," 10 tracks. >> teh b side. we will send you some outtakes if it is not enough. tavis: the new project is called "get up!" charlie, nice to meet you and have you on. i will say one last thing. as always, thanks for watching. we will see you next time back here on pbs. until then, keep the faith. ♪
captioned by the national captioning institute ♪ >> something like that. tavis: there you have it. >> for more information on tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a provocative conversation with gina messina-dysert. that is next time.
we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more.